tv [untitled] January 10, 2011 1:00pm-1:30pm PST
good spot when you see it, a spot that takes your breath away. this is one of them. >> an icon of the new deal. >> we stood here a week ago and we heard all of these dignitaries talk about the symbol that coit tower is for san francisco. it's interesting for those of us in the pioneer park project is trying to make the point that not only the tower, not only this man-built edifice here is a symbol of the city but also the green space on which it sits and the hill to which is rests. to understand them, you have to understand the topography of san francisco. early days of the city, the city grows up in what is the financial district on the edge of chinatown. everything they rely on for existence is the golden gate. it's of massive importance to the people what comes in and out of san francisco bay. they can't see it where they are. they get the idea to build a
giant wooden structure. the years that it was up here, it gave the name telegraph hill. it survived although the structure is long gone. come to the 1870's and the city has growed up remarkably. it's fueled with money from the nevada silver mines and the gold rush. it's trying to be the paris of the west. now the beach is the suburbs, the we will their people lived on the bottom and the poorest people lived on the top because it was very hard getting to the top of telegraph hill. it was mostly lean-to sharks and bits of pieces of houses up here in the beginning. and a group of 20 businessmen decided that it would be better if the top of the hill remained for the public. so they put their money down and they bought four lots at the top of the hill and they gave them to the city. lily hitchcock coit died without leaving a specific use for her bequest.
she left a third of her estate for the beautify indication of the city. arthur brown, noted architect in the city, wanted for a while to build a tower. he had become very interested in persian towers. it was the 1930's. it was all about machinery and sort of this amazing architecture, very powerful architecture. he convinced the rec park commission that building a tower in her memory would be the thing to do with her money. >> it was going to be a wonderful observation place because it was one of the highest hills in the city anywhere and that that was the whole reason why it was built that high and had the elevator access immediately from the beginning as part of its features. >> my fear's studio was just down the street steps. we were in a very small apartment and that was our backyard. when they were preparing the
site for the coit tower, there was always a lot of harping and griping about how awful progress was and why they would choose this beautiful pristine area to do them in was a big question. as soon as the coit tower was getting finished and someone put in the idea that it should be used for art, then, all of a sudden, he was excited about the coit tower. it became almost like a daily destination for him to enjoy the atmosphere no matter what the politics, that wasn't the point. as long as they fit in and did their work and did their own creative expression, that was all that was required. they turned in their drawings. the drawings were accepted.
if they snuck something in, well, there weren't going to be any stoolies around. they made such careful little diagrams of every possible little thing about it as though that was just so important and that they were just the big frog. and, actually, no one ever felt that way about them and they weren't considered something like that. in later life when people would approach me and say, well, what did you know about it? we were with him almost every day and his children, we grew up together and we didn't think of him as a commie and also the same with the other. he was just a family man doing normal things. no one thought anything of what he was doing.
some of them were much more highly trained. it shows, in my estimation, in the murals. this was one of the masterpieces. families at home was a lot more close to the life that i can remember that we lived. murals on the upper floors like the children playing on the swings and i think the little deer in the forest where you could come and see them in the woods and the sports that were always available, i think it did express the best part of our lives. things that weren't costing money to do, you would go to a picnic on the beach or you would do something in the woods. my favorite of all is in the staircase. it's almost a miracle masterpiece how he could manage
to not only fit everyone, of course, a lot of them i recognized from my childhood -- it's how he juxtaposed and managed to kind of climb up that stairway on either side very much like you are walking down a street. it was incredible to do that and to me, that is what depicted the life of the times in san francisco. i even like the ones that show the industrial areas, the once with the workers showing them in the cannery and i can remember going in there and seeing these women with the caps, with the nets shuffling these cans through. my parents had a ranch in santa rosa and we went there all summer. i could see these people leaning over and checking. it looked exactly like the
beautiful things about the ranch. i think he was pretty much in the never look back philosophy about the coit. i don't think he ever went to visit again after we moved from telegraph hill, which was only five or six years later. i don't think he ever had to see it when the initials are scratched into everything and people had literally destroyed the lower half of everything. >> well, in my view, the tower had been pretty much neglected from the 1930's up until the 1980's. it wasn't until then that really enough people began to be alarmed about the condition of the murals, the tower was leaking. some of the murals suffered wear damage. we really began to organize getting funding through the arts commission and various other sources to restore the murals.
they don't have that connection or thread or maintain that connection to your history and your past, what do you have? that's one of the major elements of what makes quality of life in san francisco so incredible. when people ask me, and they ask me all the time, how do you get to coit tower, i say you walk. that's the best way to experience the gradual elevation coming up above the hustle and bustle of the city and finding this sort of oasis, if you will, at the top of the hill. when i walk through this park, i look at these brick walls and this lawn, i look at the railings around the murals. i look at the restoration and i think, yeah, i had something to do with that. learning the lessons, thank you, landmarks meet landmarks.
the current situation at pioneer park and coit tower is really based in public and private partnership. it was the citizens who came together to buy the land to keep it from being developed. it was lily hitchcock coit to give money to the city to beautify the city she loved of the park project worked to develop this south side and still that's the basis of our future project to address the north side.
unavailing. we had a chance to speak with him about his work. >> the san francisco arts commission is pleased to be celebrating their relationship between san high and san francisco. the shanghai and san francisco. this is a 30 relationship that stretches back to win dianne feinstein was the mayor of san francisco. we premiered a new work of art here in san francisco called the three heads, six arms. welcome to san francisco.
thank you for bringing your extraordinary sculpture. can you tell me about what inspired you to create this sculpture? >> this started with some trips that i took years ago. i went to to bed and i saw a lot of statues and i started to really feel the spiritual life of people in tibet. it really inspires me and i went back to shanghai and i started the creation of this. >> we see that one of the heads of the bullet it is your face. can you talk about the significance of that?
-- we see that one of the heads of the buddha is your face. >> i started doing public art almost 10 years ago. what i want to express this as an extension of my our practice. this is an accumulation of my own experience as a performance artist. >> we see that the scale is very important. we have seen other works where a limb of this culture is on the floor but everything is very big and large scale. what are you trying to accomplish with expanding the scale of these images to such a
great size. >> i wanted to make large scale art and see how this plays a role in contemporary society. i think that is the mission of contemporary art, to serve as a social critique. >> when the mayor knew some -- when mayor newsom join you in dedicating this, they wanted to find a work that was big and bold. he was so pleased with your participation that he made you an honoraria citizens of san
francisco for the next 18 months. the public reaction has been very positive. what is your reaction of how people receive your sculpture? >> i think that san francisco has a long history. this gigantic sculpture is in front of the civic center. i know that that is not the kind of a go with whole environment. there is an exchange with the american culture and the asian culture which has created this very strong power. this power was created by east meets west may be is exactly
what our mayor or the public wants. they will start to be curious and wonder how this is here and how we look at the asian culture. >> you have lived internationally, you have lived in cities like new york and beijing, now shanghai. you made a very conscious decision to lend this culture to san francisco as opposed to having it premier as an exhibition at another museum. >> i am very satisfied with the turnout and i lived in new york for 8 years and all of my children were born in new york. i already have the american
spirit. i am proud to be here and i really appreciate the spirit of committing to things and being honored and being collaborative. when i flashed back to my career, i think about what an artist can do is a teeny tiny thing. i want to contribute to the hall human society. what art can do is just this tiny bit. >> your invitation has already proven to be a great success and we really look forward to spending time with your sculpture. thank you for being part of "culture wire." >> thank you for being part of this project. >> thank you for watching. join us for future episodes.